Northern Ireland news

Former UVF man Garfield Beattie claims he did not threaten victim's daughter

Former UVF man Garfield Beattie spoke to The Irish News. Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

A convicted UVF killer arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill has confirmed he wrote a letter to the daughter of one of his victims - but claims it was a "black joke".

Garfield Beattie (64) was questioned last weekend after Mid Ulster Aontú councillor Denise Mullen made a complaint to police.

Her father, SDLP activist Denis Mullen (35), was shot dead by Beattie and other members of the UVF at his home near Moy, Co Tyrone in September 1976.

The killing was carried out by the Glenanne Gang, which was made up of members of the RUC, UDR and UVF.

It is believed to have been responsible for the murders of up to 120 people mainly across Armagh and Down in the 1970s.

Beattie, who is a former member of the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve, is currently the subject of pending legal action launched by Ms Mullen.

The 64-year-old recently wrote to her legal team at Phoenix Law in response to correspondence from them.

Days later a threatening letter, signed 'East Tyrone Ulster Volunteer Force', was delivered to Ms Mullen's home.

The PSNI confirmed that a man was arrested on Saturday on “suspicion of offences, including threats to kill”.

He was later released “to be reported to the Public Prosecution Service”.

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Beattie was also previously convicted for his part in the murder of Frederick McLoughlin (48), who died from injuries after a gun attack at the Eagle Bar in Charlemont, near Moy, in May 1976.

The 48-year-old, from Benburb, was shot by a UVF gang as it made its escape following a no-warning bomb at another bar in the area, which claimed the lives of three people.

His third victim was Patrick McNeice (50), who was shot dead at his home in the Loughgall area of Co Armagh in July 1976.

Solicitors acting for relatives of those killed have called on Secretary of State Brandon Lewis to revoke Beattie's early release licence.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has condemned the threat against Ms Mullen and said he is willing to meet her, while Tánaiste Simon Coveney also raised concerns when he met Secretary of State Brandon Lewis this week.

Speaking to The Irish News this week, Beattie confirmed he had been arrested but denied the letter was intended as a threat.

“It was a joke,” he said.

“I shouldn't have done it.

“I admit that bit, I did wrong.”

He said Ms Mullen would have known where the letter came from and he asked police to apologise to her on his behalf.

“I knew she was going to know where it came from once I signed it,” he said.

“It was a black joke but she didn't take it that way.

“It was insensitive.

“And I told the police to tell her I am sorry for writing her the letter and signing it off like that.”

He said during the interview a PSNI officer “strongly reprimanded me and censured me for signing that off 'UVF'”.

“They asked me was I a member of the UVF and I said 'No', I wasn't.”

“And basically that was it.”

Beattie claimed that when the interview was over he was “released unconditionally”.

He said he understands how relatives feel but claimed attempts to return him to prison will not help them in their search for truth.

Ms Mullen's solicitor, Peter Corrigan, said the matter will now be referred to the Police Ombudsman.

“We have real concerns that he was not charged,” he said.

“The law is if there is sufficient evidence, and there's an admission in this case, then he should be brought before the custody sergeant to be charged.

“In light of this we are going to complain to the Police Ombudsman.

“Why was he not charged and why his licence has not been revoked?”

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